Trauma will haunt an entire generation; CHILDREN OF WAR APPEAL

JOJO MOYES

More than 90 per cent of children living in the Bosnian city of Mostar are believed to be suffering post-traumatic stress disorder, laying the ground for more conflict as they grow up to be "aggressive risk-takers", a conference will hear today.

Paediatricians and psychiatrists at the Children and Violence Conference at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham will examine issues including video violence, child protection and how children are affected by war.

Professor David Southall, who spent the 14 months up to June in Mostar, is presenting evidence gathered during a Unicef/Child Advocacy International project there in which 7,352 children were treated. It found that as well as obvious dangers such as shelling, children suffer damage from the lack of simple facilities such as dental care and glasses.

"I would say 90 per cent of children there are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Only the most serious, with severe behavioural disturbances, were picked up by the survey," he said.

"They display all the classic signs. Some were completely silent, wouldn't talk or work at school, or became highly aggressive. There's a whole generation of very damaged children"

One 11-year-old girl's father had died of a heart attack. Her mother was later killed by a shell in front of her. "After this she went to pieces," Professor Southall said. "When we saw her she wasn't talking or doing any work at school. We did a lot of psychotherapy with her and she's better than she was, but you can't undo that. It will haunt her for the rest of her life.

Many children had their glasses deliberately taken off by soldiers and stamped on and had been unable to see properly for years. About 85 per cent of children suffered dental problems. The charities have been campaigning for toothbrushes and toothpaste.

Child Advocacy International is one of four charities working in Bosnia who will benefit from the Independent's Christmas charity appeal. Readers have already contributed pounds 35,722, including pounds 12,747 yesterday alone.

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